Monday, March 9, 2009

Fiction - Part IV - Home

This is part 4 of a fictional account of Yours Truly in an catastrophic event where all power was taken out. Part one can be found here. Enjoy!
The two men set a quick pace despite their growing weariness, and quickly made their way out of the center of Bridgewater. In the distance they could see a crowd of people in the street, and clustered in a parking lot.

Strangely, it was a convenience store with its lights on. It was the first artificial light they had seen since leaving the train. Both quickened their pace and hurried to the oasis of light in an otherwise darkening evening.

There were about 25 people gathered outside, about a dozen of them were drinking hot coffee and eating candy bars and snacks, while the rest were in line in front of the doors. Al and Natog joined the line as a woman was let out of the store and a man was allowed to enter. A middle-eastern young man was in front of the door letting one person in at a time.

Al managed to make eye contact with a busty blonde in a down vest and furry boots “So, how’s the coffee?”

“Tastes like shit and cost me ten bucks, but it’s better than nothing.”

“They charged you ten dollars for a cup of coffee?”

“Yeah. Candy bars are $2.50 each.”

“What! They can’t do that! It’s illegal!”

Natog joined in, “Sure it is, they can charge whatever they want.”

“No they can’t it isn’t fair!”

“They can charge whatever they want, so long as people are willing to buy.”

“Well I’m not paying $10 for a cup of coffee. Let’s get out of here.”

“Sure you are.”

Turning from his irate friend, Natog asked the woman, “Excuse me, miss. Did they have any batteries or such?”

“Um I think they were out. They are charging more for sandwiches and water too. Oh, and they are only taking cash.”

“Thanks. Makes sense for them to do that.”

Al was still pissed off, “What.”

“For them to gouge us on the one thing everyone will want, food and a hot beverage. Give me some cash, I’ll go in the store.”

It took several minutes for the line to work its way down to Al and Natog. When a heavyset man left with a cup of coffee and a donut, the middle-eastern man said “One at a time, no funny business.”

Natog walked into the store, and the young man locked the door behind him. Immediately in front of him was a candy bar display rack empty of the popular kinds of candy. The more unpopular flavors still remained, evidently not worth $2.50 a piece. Behind the counter was a middle-aged middle-eastern man who was watching every move Natog made. Next to him was a large sign with the new prices scrawled in magic marker.

Natog went to the coffee machine and poured two cups of hot water. Walking along the aisles he noticed the small space for batteries was bare. In the coolers, the milk was all gone along with most of the sodas and energy drinks. A muffled engine could be heard coming from out back. Grabbing a small jar of peanut butter and a few granola bars, Natog went up to the counter.

$40 dollars later, Natog an Al were enjoying some hot chocolate from Natog's bag in a sheltered area with a few picnic tables. Smearing a granola bar with peanut butter. Natog handed it over to Al.

“I'm not eating that, it's has way too many calories from fat.”

“Well how many calories is your body burning to keep warm? Fats give the most calories for this kind of weather. Plus, we technically don't know when we are going to eat next.”

“OK, OK. I'll eat it.”

The next few minutes were spent hungrily wolfing down their improvised meal. Several minutes more were spent licking peanut butter off of the roofs of their mouths. Washing the last of his meal down with the now cooled off cocoa, Natog checked their progress on his map.

“Let’s get moving before we cool off too much, we have just over four miles left to go.”

Al gathered up his bag, and slung it over his shoulder, “I gotta piss.”

Natog pointed to a nearby bush, “There you go.”

“What! No way”

“You got to squat to piss or something? Just go behind the hedge over there and go.”

Al walked behind the hedge separating the picnic area from a commercial building. A sigh of pleasure accompanied the sound of a man urinating onto pavement. Al emerged a minute later with his gloves stuffed in a pocket. “Any chance I can use some water to wash up?”

“No way, you got stuff in your bag for that.”

“No I don’t, I just have some lotion.”

Natog spun his buddy around with Al squawking displeasure, unzipped his bag and pulled out the bottle of sanitizer originally from Al’s desk and handed it to him.

“Where the hell that come from?”

Natog replied with a big grin, “Your desk.”

Al finished rubbing the sanitizer in his hands, and pulled off his bag, and began to rummage through it. “Why did you put all this in here?”

“Because you’re going to need it. I know you don’t have much in the way of food in the house, this is going to be handy.”

“That’s why you looked guilty. Hey, what do I need network cables for?”

“Not sure yet, I tossed them in because you never know.”

Al put his bag back on, and pulled on his gloves. “Do you think we have to go to work tomorrow?”

Natog started down Route 28 again, with Al in tow. “Hope not, walking that far’s going to be a bitch! Nah, I’m not going in until I hear word that things are calm in the city, and we figure out how much of the US or the world is affected.”

“What do you mean? It has to just be Boston, right?”

“Why would you think that? If Charlie was right and it’s a sunspot, it could be the whole earth.”

“Shit.”

“Hope you like gardening!”

“Aw man.”

“Yeah I think physical labor will be the death of you. Well, at least the death of that manicure you’re sporting!”

Continuing south on Rt. 28, the two men made good time by setting a quick pace. They remained lost in their own thoughts, oblivious to the other isolated groups meandering their way south. Occasionally they passed an abandoned car or truck on the side of the road.

The sun plunged below the horizon, dropping twilight on the two men. As the darkness fell, the men's eyes adjusted to the gathering gloom, but eventually, they had trouble seeing. With a new moon and no heavy cloud cover, the darkness smothered them like a blanket.

“Hey, 'tog, bust out a flashlight man.”

“I rather not draw the attention to us.”

“Yeah and if we miss the turnoff, then we will keep walking until we hit New Bedford.”

“Ok, but it will fuck our nightvision up.”

Natog pulled the MiniMaglite off of his belt and handed it to Al. “I want that back.”

“Yeah yeah.”

“Seriously.”

Al fumbled with the flashlight for a second until he got it turned on. It wasn't a full 90 seconds before a woman's voice called out of the darkness, “Mind if we walk with you?”

Natog gave Al a “I told you so look”, and turned to the woman and her two companions, “Sure, the more the merrier.”

The group grew larger as they walked down the Rt. 28. They exchanged pleasantries and small talk as they walked as if their voices could hold back the night. Eventually the group grew to a small crowd. Natog halted everyone for small breaks, enough for the stragglers to catch up and catch their breath. They didn't dilly-dally for long, however, with the only source of warmth done for the day the night was bone chillingly cold. He tried to organize the group so those with the thinnest clothes were in the middle of the pack, but even then most were shaking with the cold.

With the larger group they were forced to slow their pace, so others could keep up with the larger group. As they walked, smaller groups would splinter off going down dark side streets. In the cold night air, they could see a flickering light in the distance. It wasn't moving, but it certainly was along Route 28. The light grew brighter and brighter as they walked, and eventually they discerned it was a fire. At the split with Old Center Street, the highway department had cut down all the overgrown brush in the fall, but never cleaned it up. This was the source of the fuel for the fire that warmed several dozen people. As the group sought the warmth of the fire, Natog took the flashlight back from Al, turned it off, and beckoned him to follow.

After a few hundred yards had passed, Natog handed the flashlight back to Al. “I wanted to ditch those people, you know a few were going to beg for a ride or a couch to crash on or something.”

“Wow, you have a low opinion of people, don't you.”

“Yep, they never fail to let me down, present company somewhat excluded.”

“Thanks, you asshole.”

“Anytime, Sheeple”

“What was that?”

Natog laughed, “Sheeple. As in sheep plus people”

“Well people do want to follow the herd”

“Just like lemmings off of the cliff.”

“That’s a myth, saw it on Mythbusters or something.”

“I know, but it’s a common enough saying.”

Natog pulled the bottle from under his coat and took a long draught. Passing it to Al he gratefully took a drink from it as well.

“Damn you’re handy to have around.”

“Yep. You don’t know the half of it.”

“Ok so what other skills do you know?”

“Well I can tie a cherry stem into a knot in my mouth with my tongue.”

“That must impress all the ladies.”

“Your mom most of all!”

“Fuck you!”

“No I’m straight.”

The darkness was suffocating. Heavy cloud cover stopped the stars from lighting their way, but here and there lights could be seen in the distance. The mag light did little other than illuminate a dozen yards in front of them.

“Wow, people have lights on! Look over that way.”

“Yeah, I can hear the genny.”

Homes here and there had light filtering through the sheer curtains from candles and camping lanterns. As the men walked, they smelled cooking meat which made their stomachs rumble with hunger. As they walked past one home, a man in a parka with an apron over it waved as they walked past.

All rubbed his gloved hands together, “God DAMN that smells good.”

“Fuck yeah. The only think keeping me going is the steak I have marinating in the fridge.”

“Won’t it be bad?”

Natog laughed. “How do you think people ate before the invention of refrigeration in the 30’s?”

“Er. I dunno.”

“In this weather it will take a while to go bad.” Just put it outside and it will freeze. Just don’t let it freeze and thaw during the day.”

“Where you learn all this stuff?”

“Reading, common sense, Boy Scouts, the Internet.”

“Well, can I borrow a book or something? I’m not sure what to do.”

“I’ve been thinking about that, and I think I’ll swing by your apartment on the way home.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you’re going to need a crash course.”

“Thanks man.”

Cold and tired, Natog kept trudging along in the freezing cold. They turned left on Rt. 44 and kept to the side of the road. Occasionally a car would zip by. Natog and Al kept quiet as they used the last of their energy to make it to Al’s house.

Turning onto Everett St. Al looked down the row of homes, most of which had dim lights in one or two windows. “Almost there.”

“Dude, I’m pretty well frozen.”

“Yeah, me too.”

A quarter of a mile later, Natog and Al were trudging up the stairs to Al’s apartment.

Al fumbled with the keys with stiff fingers for a minute when the door suddenly opened, spilling orange light into the hallway. Mary, Al’s longtime on-again off-again girlfriend stood in the doorway with what looked like three sweaters on.

“Oh my GOD, I was so worried!” Mary threw a bear hug around Al, and dragged him into the apartment.

Natog stepped in and closed and locked the door behind him. Dropping his bag next to the door, he began pulling off the outer layers of clothes. Several candles were scattered on the island separating the small kitchen from the living room.

Mary and Al were still liplocked when Natog politely cleared his throat. “You have plenty of time for that later, I got to head home.”

Mary sheepishly looked at Natog “Oh High ‘tog!”

“Hi Mary. Ok you two, let’s see what we are dealing with here.”

Mary was a beautiful woman. half Portuguese and French-Canadian, she had a dark, sultry complexion. She also was a gymoholic, and ate the same protein shakes, supplements and assorted other weird shit Al was always eating. She was also batshit crazy, as most women Al dated were, and very, very high maintenance. Al had this “thing” for crazy women Natog could never understand. Evidently the crazier they were the more Al was attracted to them.

Natog took a look around the apartment. While poking around, Mary turned to Al, “What’s he doing?”

“Fuck if I know,” replied Al, “but he got me out of Boston and home in one piece.”

Mary snuggled back into her blankets on the couch, “I’m surprised he’s not out hunting a moose for dinner or something.”

Natog came back into the room, “Nah, that’s tomorrow! Ok kids, here’s the deal. One of you go through and collect all your non-refrigerated food and water and put it on the island. The other is to rummage and find all your batteries, flashlights and candles. Oh yeah and all the first aid supplies you have.”

Al stood poleaxed for a minute, then began rummaging around closets and cabinets. Natog gave Mary the evil eye until she sighed and got up and began pulling stuff from cabinets.

Natog took the opportunity to rest on the couch. Pulling off his boots one at a time he rubbed his aching feet for a couple minutes. Figuring his feet would swell up, he then pulled his boots back on.

Retying his shoelaces Natog looked over their progress. “Ok, let’s see what we got here. Half a box of band-aids, some petrified Neosporin, and Tylenol. That’s fucking horrible. Ok a pile of scented candles, and a few assorted batteries. A pile of non-fat healthfood, some olive oil, and assorted energy bars. Wow, it’s worse than I thought. What do you guys do, eat out every night?”

“Pretty much.”

“One of you see if you have any hot water left, if you do fill the tub, then you both take your last bath for a while.

Mary blushed, “I used the last of the hot water after the power went out.”

Al playfully threw a bag of dehydrated seaweed at Mary, “You bitch!”

“I just got back from the gym! Want me to stink?”

Natog interrupted the two, “Don’t have a domestic right now, I still got a long way to go tonight. Go through this mess and see how many meals you guys have here. I’ll check the propane situation. Mary, How much gas do you have in your car?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Ok I’ll check that too. You did drive home right, so it works?

“Yeah I drove home after the power went out.” Mary replied.
“Cool. And fill your tub with water.”

“Not to question why, oh survival guru, but what for?”

“So you can flush your toilet.”

“Oh, right.”

Natog went out on the porch and lifted the propane tank from Al’s stainless steel grill. Giving it a few shakes, he figured it was half full. Cutting back through the apartment, he grabbed Mary’s keys and went downstairs. When checked, the tank was just over a quarter full. Locking the car up, he went back in.

“Ok kids whatcha got?”

Al looked up from a piece of paper, “About 37, if you include what we brought back from Boston. We also got a bunch of whet protein, but you can’t live on just that.”

“Not bad. How much do you have in the freezer and fridge – without looking?”

“I’m not 100% sure, but at least a week’s worth.”

“That’s a lot better than I thought, actually. So use the tub’s water to flush the toilet, but you should save that for number 2. Al can pee outside, Mary can too.”

“What!?!? I’m not pissing in the cold outside!”

“Ok you can go inside, but try not to flush too often. Who knows when we will get power back. That reminds me, fill every pot and big bowl with water. Cover them with plastic wrap to keep dust out. Keep them out of sunlight, so no bugs grow in them.”

“Guys things are going to be real hard, so think before you do something stupid. It’s going to get real cold in here, so don’t bring in your grill to try to heat up the apartment. Or burn 10 candles at once. Carbon Monoxide will kill you. I’d use blankets to section off a smaller part of the apartment, and stay in there. Your body heat will warm it up a little. Wear lots of clothes and move around if you get cold. You can hang blankets in front of the windows, that will help make it warmer too.”

“You guys take care of yourselves. You should be fine for a few days.”

Mary grabbed her keys, “I’ll give you a lift.”

“No, save your gas. Don’t use the car except for an emergency.”

Mary gave Natog a hug, and Al a handshake. “Thanks a lot man.”

Natog returned the firm handshake, “No problem.” Digging in his bag, he gave Al the last of the peanut butter. “Here take this, you guys will need the fats.”

“Seriously, man. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Natog wearily put his sweatshirt back on, and pulled his messenger bag over his head. “Ok guys I’ll be around the house. If you come by, don’t do something silly and come waltzing in. And if you go somewhere let me know.”
Al pulled the door open for Natog, “Ok man. When will I see you again?”

Natog stepped out in the hall, “I’ll come by in a couple days. Take care of yourselves.”

Pulling out his flashlight, he made his way down the stairs and out into the night. Turning off his flashlight he tried letting his eyes adjust to the dark, but with no luck. Regretfully he turned his flashlight back on and made his way south down the road.

Middleboro was dark, but here and there lights could be seen from homes as Natog worked his way down the streets. In his 25 minute journey he saw only two cars, one of which was a cop.

Sticking to the side roads and shadows he set a fast pace. It was well past dinnertime, and Natog’s stomach was rumbling. Occasionally he saw other people walking around the town, but he didn’t make eye contact, and they were happy to let him pass without engaging in conversation.

Finally he neared his home. Cutting across the back neighbor’s yard, he hopped his back fence, and walked up to the back door. Inside, his dogs were going bonkers with happiness. Opening his door, the alarm went off. Letting the dogs out into the back yard, he punched his code into the panel. Taking that as a good sign, he dropped his bag and collapsed on the couch.

5 comments:

YeOldFurt said...

Good fiction. Keep going.
YeOldFurt

Mayberry said...

Good stuff Natog!

Shy Wolf said...

Dang- don't stop now- you got me so excited the dog almost wet himself...
Shy

Shy Wolf said...

Will you hurry up and WRITE? Dang, I'm almost outta breath here, Nat!
Shy

Fastest Squirrel said...

Nice work. Keep it comin'!